Skip to main content

Full text of "Notes on Huambisa phonemics"

See other formats

David Beasley and Kenneth L. Pike 

Notes on Huambisa Phonemies 

Introduction: This paper is designed to give a brief statement 
of the significant sounds — the phonemes — of the Huambisa language 
of northern Peru east of the Andes, along the Morona and Santiago 
Rivers. It is closely related to the Aguaruna 1 language in sound system 
and lexicon. These data represent principally the Wachiyacu dialect 
from the Wachiyacu River, an affluent of the Morona River. The principal 
informant was Julio, son of Mamas, wife of the chief, Juan iVnaoku. 

Stops and affricates: Only one series of stops and affricates 
occurs in Huambisa. The principal allophones of these are voiceless, 
unaspirated. Occasionally, in free variation with the unaspirated varieties, 
a slight aspiration will occur. In the middle of words, after nasal conso- 
nants, however, voiced allophones of the stops and affricates appear. 
The /pi may be voiced preceding /?/, and jk/ may be voiced before \m\ 
and /»/. The jcj and \t\ appear with the analogous voiceless allophones, 
but the voiced allophone of \t\ has not yet been found after nasals 
even though \j\ as a submember of \c\ does appear after \n\. In addition, 
the phoneme jkj has a further allophone, a voiced velar fricative conti- 
nuant [7] which occurs in free variation with \k\ between vowels. Illu- 
strations of these consonants may be seen in the following words; the 
reader can make the appropriate phonetic adjustments in accordance 
with the description just given: ipdpi/ 'a personal name (male)'; jpdkij wild 
boar'; Ipidkj 'sleeping platform'; jtuutuj mosquito net'; litt'il 'gnat'; jtakasul 
Tie worked'; \kdri\ 'sleepiness'; jkakto/ 'boil'; Inumpa/ 'blood'; fadmpacj 
'carrying bag'; /wdmpukasj 'a certain lizard'; jrukamtqil 'why'; jkudntinl 'hori- 
zontal cut'; Ikuntin/ 'meat'; jpdnkij 'boa'; \aldmkau\ 'to be afraid'"; iikinkdtal 
'burn it with fire'; jtupikmi/ 'let's cut it (horizontally)'; iusukmittal 'to 
spit'; iahdkmi/ 'let's cut it (vertically)'; Ipimpikvumikj 'are you tired?'; 

1 Mildred Larson, A Comparative Vocabulary of Huambisa and Aguaruna, to appear 
in Tradicion. Both languages are members of the Jivaro language family (See Hand- 
book of South American Indians, Vol. 6, p. 223). 

1 Lingua Posnaniensis VI 

D. Beasley — K. L. Pike LP 6 

Itaaprdkj 'a five hole flute 5 ; /hitncam/ 'baf ; jhuicamj c a certain animal'. 
jsancimj e a personal name (male)'; \\n$a\ 'creek'; jdtqf 'sun'; Ia0l no!'. 

A glottal stop occurs occasionally in a few special exclamatory 
expressions. It is part of the regular lexical system as one of the seg- 
mental signals of a question: / ? q ? q/ 'yes, that's right'; jcq 9 l T don't know'; 
/kucakd?/ 'is it from the lake?'. 

Voiceless fricatives: Alveolar, alveo-palatal, and velar voice- 
less fricative phonemes occur. The velar fricative occurs in a stronger 
allophone on stressed syllables, with a more lenis variety elsewhere. 
Note the following illustrations: /wdmpukas/ 'a certain kind of edible 
lizard'; I wdmpukas/ 'a person with mixed ancestry'; jasaj 'a burn'; /asdmaj 
'to be afraid of; jsaj 'corn'; jsdnal 'dew'; jihiuj 'palm heart'; jhiihiutinj 
'a bent blade'; lihiaj 'feces'. 

Nasals, flaps, and semi-vowels: The bilabial and alveolar 
I m/ and In/ give no particular difficulty in the analysis: /culm/ e a personal 
name (male)'; /mdsu/ 'wild turkey'; /asdmkau/ 'afraid'; /kasamkdcu/ 'not 
stolen'; /tupikmau/ 'cut (horizontally)'; /sinin/ 'talkative'; /nuna/ 'this one'; 
jkanaruj 'he slept'. There is at least one other nasal phoneme, however, 
which is more difficult to handle. One finds a number of alveo-palatal 
nasals with the phonetic characteristics of [n] distributed only medially 
in words, in contrast with \m\ and /n/. There is a further nasal sound [oj 
at velar point of articulation. It occurs at the end of utterances, and 
furthermore, preceding the velar phoneme jkf (which is then actualized 
as a phonetic [g]); however, when the velar stop is followed by a vowel 
sequence in which the first vowel is /£/, the allophone [n] occurs, as in 
jwawkiu/ [waingiou] 'found' ; /kupwkiu/ [kupihgiou] 'weak' ; /ukuwkiata/ [uku- 
ingiata] 'open it!'. Within our present data the two nasals — the alveo- 
-palatal and the velar — are in complementary distribution, and should 
be treated as submembers of the same phoneme 2 : jnamdal [namdo] 'flesh'; 
jdmimil \dminu] 'yours, to you'; /wwau/ {ftinou] 'mine, to me'; /piww/ [pinw] 
'red bowl for fermented manioc drink'; jtitiaj [titw] 'scorpion'; jtdtanj 
[tdtav] 'pottery board'; jhiwdru/ [hindfu\ 'wet'. 

A flapped vibrant jfj occurs in contrast with the other phonemes 
of the language, but carries with it no particular analytical difficulty: 
Icdafimj 'lightning'; Ipwkir/ 'good'; jsudf/ 'Indians, people'. 

The semi-vowel /y/ occurs initially in words and medially between 
vowels, but phonemicallv it does not occur elsewhere. To the casual 

2 Since, however, our data is a bit scanty at this point, we are writing them sepa- 
rately in our practical orthography to leave room for further evidence which might 
later indicate that they are separate phonemes. 

LP 6 Notes on Huambisa Phonemics 3 

listener, a sequence of consonant plus'/i/ plus vowel would sound like 
a sequence of consonant plus [y] plus vowel. It is only when one sees 
the stress system in relation to vowel sequences that our present ana- 
lysis can be reached. Note, for example, that there are clear contrasts 
between [kia] and [kid], the latter of which may sound phonetically like 
\kyd] in such pairs as jkidfuj 'darkness', jkiaraij 'late in the day', and 
/ikidtata/ loan it!', /kiacu/ not late in the day\ 

The semi-vowel jwj also occurs, but with a rounded allophone before 
the vowels /a, i', u\ whereas an allophone with Jess lip rounding occurs 
before /£/: /wu/ 'he went'; /ifljfnjf/ 'mouth'; \toq\ 'hole'; /with/ e a certain 
edible bee'; /iwanc/ 'ghost, demon'; [uwisin/ [upisin] 'witch doctor'; /wiicj 
[Pitt] 'hair'; \wi\ [jSi] T. 

Vowel quality: Two high vowels, unrounded and rounded 
respectively, occur in Huambisa as \i\ and /a/. A low central vowel \a\ 
also occurs. A fourth vowel \'i\ is pronounced fairly high in the mouth, 
with the tongue well back and the lips unrounded. Each of these four 
vowel qualities may occur in an oral type and in a nasalized counter- 
part. For contrast between the phonemes /i/, \i\, \a\ and /u/, note the 
following illustrations: I'tn^acj 'mosquito larvae'; /untuc/ e a personal name 
(female)'; Inampfal 'he is drunk'; /umpua/ 'he blows'; /fftjf/ 'gnat'; jtutupnikl 
'is it correct?'; jtitij 'Adam's apple'; \r\Ua\ 'a stingy person'; jndtal 'a young 
unmarried man'; lydntaj 'lightning bug'; lydnfij 'a personal name (female)'; 
/hi/ 'eye, light, fire'; \ha\ 'he is sick, or dying'; Iwuj 'he went' ; jwa/ e a certain 
bird'; /nukap/ 'many'; jndkastaj 'wait!'. 

Note the following illustrations for contrast between the oral and 
nasal vowels of the different qualities: jkdyaj 'stone'; jkqil 'sister'; lapaf\j 
'his father'; /wafil 'what?'; jnqs'ij 'wind'; Iniisij 'peanuts'; /hid/ 'it reaches'; 
lh'\qj 'house, roof; \vodmp\\\ 'a certain tree'; /simpu/ 'a personal name 
(male).; Ihuhuru/ 'dried'; Ipu^ufu/ 'pale'; /waj 'a certain bird'; jwqj 'hole'. 

Non-significant varieties of these phonemic qualities occur. The \i\ 
may have a lower, less tense variety in an unstressed syllable than in 
a stressed one: /wapik/ [wapik] 'dirty'; jhapikinj [hapikin] 'I will catch'; 
/kasinj [kasin] 'tomorrow' ; /kdsikl [kdsik] 'the darkness just before dawn'. 
The phoneme \a\ has raised variants in sequences of vowels: before \i\ 
the vowel \a\ raises in the direction of the quality of [e]; before /a/ 
the vowel \a\ raises somewhat toward [o]; following the vowel /if/ the 
phoneme /a/, when unstressed, raises toward a more central position [a]. 
Examples: \puumdiai\ \p h uumdtei] T will stay'; jsamtkaitil [samtketti] 'really 
fresh'; lyaikim/ [yeikim] 'sand'; /waum/ [woum] 'a type of large ant'; jimauj 
\imou\ 'he vomited'; jwtamik/ [wtamik] 'are you going?'; jfiasl [fids] 'blow 
gun poison'; /h'idtin/ \hidtin] 'he will reach'; \'idm\ \idfu] 'swollen'. The 

D. Beasley — K. L. Pike LP 6 

phoneme \u\ as second member of the vowel cluster jiuj may fluctuate 
between [u] and [o u ] when occurring word final: /wawkiul [waihgio u ] or 
[waihgiu] 'found'; jkupiakiuj [kupingio u \ or [kupihgiu] 'weak'. 

A more severe difficulty in the analysis of Huambisa vowel qualities, 
however, comes in the consideration of voiceless items. Certain vowels 
which in the middle of words in a restricted word list are clearly voiced, 
and are members of the ordinary voiced vowel system, lose their voicing 
when unstressed, and when the suffixes following them are dropped 
from the word. A brief aspiration of some kind is often left in the place 
of these stem-final vowels, although at times this aspiration also disap- 
pears completely. When the aspiration has gone, it is clear that the 
vowel has been lost. When the aspiration remains, the situation is by 
no means so clear. Occasionally, there seems to be a clear contrast 
between the vowel quality of these voiceless aspirations. Thus, for 
example, the final sound of [kdapl] a certain gnat' (in which the /// indi- 
cates a voiceless variety of /if/) is in clear contrast with the final voiceless 
/// of the word [kdapl] Vine'. These voiceless vowels are in phonemic 
contrast with each other and with other vowels which, in a restricted 
list of words, do not unvoice at all word finally. Note, for example: 
jcdpij 'a certain palm tree', and Itfrnpi/ 'hummingbird'. Thus, the two 
voiceless vowels, jl/ and ///, must be considered phonemic, even though 
they are frequently lost in the dialects of some speakers. 

It is more difficult, however, to say how many of these voiceless 
vowels are found in the phonemic system of those speakers who have 
them 3 . Although the vowel /// is found in contrast to ///, one most often 
finds the ///' in phonological contexts in which there is a palatal con- 
sonant or vowel such as /c/, /«/, or jij as seen in [ucicl] 'child'; \ciimpl\ 
'a certain bird'; [kuisl] 'ear'. The /// quality appears to be almost con- 
ditioned, and the jUj is found very rarely but is clearly heard in words 
like [atdW] 'chicken', and \kaniitU] 'canoe paddle'. Most vowels which 
have clear contrastive quality when voiced in the middle of words, lose 
their contrastiveness when voiceless at the end of words, where most 
of them become some kind of neutral aspiration which may not be 
relevant to the system, or possibly a voiceless phoneme jAj as seen in 
\pakuntA] 'a personal name (male)'; [untA] big'; [kupate] 'a certain palm 
tree'; [ukuumdte] 'condor'. No voiceless nasal vowels have been found. 
Further study must be made before the system can be clarified. 

Length, stress, and vowel clusters: Clusters of two oral 
vowels occur in a number of quality types jiu, ia, ta, ui, ua, an, a'u ail 

3 Except in these two paragraphs, examples are given in the dialect of those 
speakers who consistently omit the stemfinal voiceles vowel. 

T p (j Notes on Huambisa Phonemics 

illustrated by the following words: jciuj 'pineapple 7 ; /wkiukatinj come 
together'; /iatik/ 'freely; /cinkidta/ 'bore a hole!'; jkiaku/ 'he coughs'; 
jwiamik/ 'are you going? 5 ; jpidkj 'sleeping platform'; /kuwkuim/ 'land turtle'; 
jhuicam/ 'a certain animal'; /nuokudn/ 'earth (objective case)'; /iouacu/ 'not 
sharp, dull'; /aunt I 'a certain bird'; //da/ 'he came'; /mitdik/ 'an orphan, 
a poor person'; /mucitkaipa/ 'don't move around'; jdit/ 'green, unripe'; 
/atskartin/ 'he will burn'. 

In addition, diverse clusters of nasal vowels also occur in the fol- 
lowing varieties /i/<?, i«, \q, qil illustrated by: /ahuqfq/ 'it fell'; /hn\/ 'here'; 
jh\q/ 'house, roof; /umqi/ 'sister'. 

Jn the light of this pattern of two vowel sequences it seems essential 
to interpret a phonetic contrast between long and short vowels as 
a contrast between a single vowel and a cluster of two identical pho- 
nemes in close transition from one to the other. Sequences of like vowels 
occur for all four qualities orally, but in our present data we have only 
one occurrence nasally: /sqqksqqk/ 'a certain type of grass'. Note the 
following illustrations of identical vowel clusters in contrast to single 
vowels of the same quality: jmakui/ 'the side of a house', /mdaki/ 'leave 
it!'; /mdmal 'manioc', /mdamau/ 'murdered'; /$umi\r\/ 'his buttocks', /tuuma/ 
'he tickles'; /titutu/ 'mosquito net', /tutupnik/ 'is it correct?'; /wikdmik/ 
'are you going?', /wiikdn/ 'a type of edible bee (objective case)'; /hiikin/ 
'eye, light, fire (objective case)', /hikitin/ 'he will take it'. 

Further examples of identical vowel clusters are: jwiic/ 'hair'; /iismi/ 
'let's see'; /siipfi/ 'a certain white pitch of a tree (possessed form)'; /it/ 
f yes, that's right'; /ukuumdt/ 'condor'; /amukuumi/ 'are you finished?'; 
Ituupmku/ 'swollen'; /akintaa$a/ 'to repair it'; /cdarim, 'lightning'; Itdacuj 
'he didn't come'. 

Stress is phonemic, with word pairs differentiated by this significant 
feature: /wivau/ 'mine, to me', /wivdu/'he came'; jdtql 'sun', /aid/ no!'; 
jwari/ 'trade goods', /wdfi/ 'hurry up!'. 

The placement of stress is important to the interpretation of vowel 
sequences, since the first* of a two-vowel sequence, when unstressed, 
may appear to the casual listener as a consonant rather than a vowel. 
The pattern of long vowels has been interpreted as two vowel phone- 
mes, and some of the other vowel clusters such as /iaj also as two 
vowels. As shown above, it then becomes evident that it is essential to 
interpret a sequence such as \kya\ as a sequence of phonemic /kia/. 
Note the following instances of contrastive stress upon vowel sequences, 
additional to those given above: /iatik / 'freely'; jnavkidta/ 'to fish with 
fish hooks'; /wdinsam'ik/ 'did you find?'; /akuptqi/ 'one who sends'; jhiqf 
'house, roof; /hid/ 'it reaches'; /suawai/ 'he gives' ; /sudnu/ 'belonging to Sua'. 

6 D. Beasley — K. L. Pike LP 6 

Syllable structure: Syllables may consist of a single vowel 
(symbolized V) or of a consonant-vowel (CV), or a consonant-vowel- con- 
sonant (CVO, or of a vowel-consonant (VC). Any of the voiced vowels 
may constitute a syllable by itself; vowel clusters break down into 
two syllable nuclei. Any consonant may occur at the beginning of any 
type of syllable. Any consonant may come at the end of any type of 
syllable, except for the phonemes /w 9 y/. 

In specific positions within the word a few gaps occur in our corpus, 
though some of them appear to be accidental — that is, not non-struc- 
turally determined, but due to incomplete data — and others may prove 
to be permanent gaps in the system. In word initial syllables of a CVC 
pattern, the first consonants exclude j'f, »/ (but this restriction does not 
apply to CV syllables). The phoneme jfj appears in this position only 
in Spanish loan words. In CVC syllables, in the second consonantal 
position we have not yet observed the sporadic list /p, s, 5, h/, and in 
VC syllables we have not yet observed the stops and affricates //, k, f, c/. 
In word medial syllables of CV pattern, the /s/ has not been observed 
in the consonant spot, but there have been no other initial restrictions 
observed on the medial syllable. In the final consonantal position of 
a medial VC syllable, there is a restriction that /^/ has not been observed, 
but no other such restriction. The sharp difference between the restrict- 
ions of initial and medial syllables as regards the listing of their final 
consonants contributes to the appearance of the sporadic nature rather 
than the structural nature of these gaps. As for final syllables our data 
includes further sporadic gaps, in that CVC final syllables lack jyj in 
the first consonant spot and /»/ in the last consonant spot; similarly, 
in final VC syllables, /{/ is lacking. Note the following illustrations in 
which the period indicates syllable division: V.CVC /itip/ 'a man's skirt'; 
V.CV I'MI c it lacks'; C V.CVC /katip/ 'rat'; C V.CVC /pakun/ 'a personal 
name (male)'; CVC.CV.VC /luntudm/ 'a certain palm tree'; CVC.CV 
/swki/ 'a type of wood'; VC.CVC.CV /antukta/ 'listen!'; VC.CV.V /umpua/ 
e he blows'; CVC.CV.V.CV /pampadfu/ 'spread around'; CV. V.CVC /huicam/ 
'a certain small mouse'; CVC.CV.VC /campidrf 'a type of eating banana'; 
V.CV.VC.CV.CV /ikiimsatal 'sit down!'; CV.CVC.CV /sikiktd/ 'dip up 
water'; V.CVC.CV /ahdkmi/ 'let's cut it'; CV. VC.CV.V /sidktai/ 'let's go!'; 
CV.VC.CV.V /pudfnau/ 'belonging to Puar'; CV.V /hid/ 'it reaches'; 
CVC.CV.V /kuvkui/'ei certain fish'; CVC.CV /numpa/ 'blood'; CV.CV.CV 
Ipucuru 'pale'; CV.CVC jsupap/ 'a certain green berry'; CV.C V.CVC 
lyapakdc/ 'a personal name (female)' ; C V.VC /siip/ 'a certain white pitch' ; 
CV.CV.VC /pukudvl 'water snail'. 

Consonant and vowel clusters in relation to sylla- 
ble division: Across syllable bounderies clusters of consonants and 

LP (y Kotes on Huambisa Phonemics 7 

of vowels may occur, as may be deduced from the following examples. 
Note that clusters of consonants occur neither word initially nor, in 
general, word finally. There are a few instances, however, of syllables 
closed by two consonants in word final position, i. e. /VCC/ or /CVCC/. 
The first member of such two-consonant clusters is in every instance 
Jnj, and the final consonant in each instance is an affricate /t/ or /c/. 
Note the following illustrations: /dunt/ 'a certain bird'; /(wane/ 'a ghost'; 
Jmakdnc/ c a certain snake'; /ukunc/ 'bone'; /tuntdntl 'Tundants River'; 
Jtanc/ 'type of red feather'; jhancj 'cloth'; jnancl 'a personal name (male)'. 

Clusters of consonants do, however, occur in the middle of words 
when the consonant closing one syllable precedes a consonant beginning 
the succeeding syllable. In this way the following types of consonant 
clusters are developed — a stop as the first member: /pk, ps, pc, pf, tp, 
it, tk, th, U, tr, tm, to, kt ks, kc, km, ko, ck, cm/; a sibilant or /h/ as the 
first member: /st, sk, sc, sm, sm, sn, ht/; a flap as the first member > 
/fp, ft, fs, fh, fc, fm, fn/; a nasal as the first member: /mp, mt, mk, ms, mf, 
mo, nt, nk, ns, n£, nc, ot, ok, os, os, oh, of, om, oo/. These are seen in the 
following illustrations — with stop as the first member: /tnta pukapkd 
hdwaij 'water is bubbling', /nakapsd^a/ 'to prove, to test', /sitdpeic/ 'small, 
short', Itaapfdkl 'a five toned flute', /ihidtpau/ 'he is defecating', /takasedt- 
tahail T will not work', /waki'tkitoiti/ 'later he will return home', jwdkithai/ 
T am returning home', /usukmitta/ 'to spit', /uwatfdta/ 'split it!', /wdkitmik/ 
*are you returning home?', /atdksa/ 'repeat it!', /imikmdkcatin/ 'he will 
not be finished (e. g. will not die)', /{upikmi/ 'let's cut it', jpimpikoumik/ 
'are you tired?', jicackdta/ 'start the motor!', /afdemau/ 'not planted'; with 
sibilant or \h\ as the first member: /takastd/ 'work!', /afskaftin/ 'he will 
burn', /takasmi/ 'let us work', /dsmao/ 'man, men', /atasnau/ 'belonging to 
the chicken', /anuhtuktinj 'he will take a picture' ; with flap as the first 
member: /katifpis/ 'Katrapisa River', /ifsdmau/ 'he improvised a tune', 
Jhiodfhai/ T got wet', /ptokifcau/ 'no good, worthless', /napidfmau/ 'doubled 
over', /pudfnau/ 'belonging to Puar'; with nasal as the first member: 
Jnumpa/ 'blood', /ahamtincaul 'not pregnant', /kasamkacau/ 'not stolen', 
Jikumsata/ 'sit down', /asdmfukaipa/ 'don't be afraid', /kasamoucau/ 'not 
stolen', /pakuntd/ 'belonging to Pakun', /uwdnkitin/ 'he will give it back', 
Jhansumau/ 'dancing', jin^aj 'creek', /adncik/ 'not the same as', /afaukatioid/ 
later you cross over the river', \makd narriaokt/ 'cow meat', jaosiaj 'from 
Spanish ansuela ^fishhook* ', /paiolij 'collar bone', jkatiohdi/ T crpss over 
the river', /cidofap) 'to put one's arm in a sleevehole', /nikiomdu! 'ground 
up', jndpi ftk'iooi/ 'a certain snake'. 

Extra-systematic phonemes: Further extra-systematic phone- 
mes include the following sounds, each of which indicates surprise, 

D. Beasley — K. L. Pike LP b 

delight, exclamation, etc., without any observed semantic contrasts be- 
tween them: [t$ K \ an alveodental ingressive affricate used principally by 
women and girls; \p?\ a bilabial egressive globalized stop, and |r| 
a fortis alveolar ingressive oral click, both of which are used principally 
by men and boys. 

Loan words: In the speech of monolingual women who utilize 
a few loan w-ords from Spanish there are changes in the Spanish phone- 
tics to adapt these words to the Huambisa phonology. Note the follow- 
ing .examples of Huambisa pronunciation of Spanish loan words: 
Spanish jbj replaced by Huambisa \m\ \mara\ from bala 'bullet'; jmakaj 
from vaca 'cow'; imdufj from haul 'trunk'; jmuti! from botella 'bottle'; 
jtika'i for diga 'says'; jsaukj from chaquira 'beads'; /yumauo/ from limort 
'lemon ; jkuci; from cuchillo 'knife'; jkukucj from cocona 'a type ot fruit'; 
jauhj from aguja needle'; jyawidtaj 'lock it!' from Have 'key'. 

There are some loan words utilized from Quechua, although rare. 
Note the following: jsa/ from shdra 'corn'; jkucaj from cocha 'lake*; 
/wiakcdn/ 'a white man' from viracocha 'the Supreme Being, God'. 

Beasley, David and Kenneth L. Pike. 1957. "Notes on Huambisa phonemics. ' 
Lingua Posnaniensis 6: 1-8.